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  • Writer's pictureBenita Garvin


The last two and a half years more closely resemble a bad "B" movie you saw growing up than the life you remember, pre-March 2022.

I'm a rarity. I have yet to have Covid. I attribute it to luck, masks, and, of course, the vaccine. Today was the last day of my November Storytelling Lab class. I give the same assignment to every session because it's brilliant (if I say so myself). It stretches the boundaries of what people think they can or can't do. When the student shared her assignment, she talked about the lockdown and how scary it was before vaccines. BEFORE VACCINES??!!!!

Holy shit. I'd already forgotten there was a time when we didn't have vaccines or medicine to treat the disease. The day my husband and I turned into Dodger Stadium to take our place behind a seemingly endless line of cars to receive our first vaccine, I became emotional. The lump in my throat nearly choked me! Newsreel images of the end of WW2 flashed through my imagination. Now, I've had three vaccines and two boosts or the other way around. Five jabs. Not to mention flu and pneumonia. Hardly an appropriate WW2 analogy!!

The 2020s have been the equivalent of a run-on sentence. Life's timeline is now defined as before and after the panic. I think of these years before and after Storytelling Lab. When I created the class, I assumed its shelf life was that of the pandemic. But that's when we thought the pandemic would be 3-6 months - max!!

Storytelling Lab is beginning its third year! One of the benefits I couldn't have anticipated was how it provided a structure where there was none. Days no longer blurred into new days. Even when people returned to work or a semblance of "normal," the class remained a refuge. People reconnected with themselves. They found a piece of themselves they'd buried or lost. By excavating and releasing their natural voice, they found purpose in days that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

An unexpected bonus was the community formed. Hard to believe people can connect in a meaningful way when they're a disembodied head. I've taught workshops in person for decades, but never experienced the kind of bond that developed between the women in STL. This photo was taken exactly a year ago. Bec and Sal had their first in-person meeting a year ago. I'll let them tell you how much they've changed in the last year! I adore this photo. The look of their faces expresses everything I love about Storytelling Lab. The childlike wonder, the camaraderie and the joy.

Those who've remained and become part of Storytelling Lab 2 can highlight their creative accomplishments. Emily Kempson's brilliant BBC Radio 4 documentary, "Casting a Wider Net." ( Emma Kriskinans made the shortlist for two separate short story competitions for two different stories. A long list of STL2 students who will, a year from now, look back and be astonished by their achievements which include (but are not limited to) a graphic novel, several novels, a stage play, a memoir, a pilot, and a short film, among other projects.

It's human to mark time - albeit a cruel, evil trick to remind us of our mortality. But when you connect with a part of yourself that is pure you – that face you saw every day in the mirror when you were age eight or ten, time takes on a different meaning. Time becomes your friend. You revisit the past with a sense of wonder. How did you get through it? And then joy: Look how you flourished despite it!!

The best and most important gift you can give yourself or receive, is the gift of time. Consider spending 12 hours of it (2 hrs x 6 weeks) in Storytelling Lab. I promise - no, I guarantee you, a life-enriching experience.

Onward to 2023!!

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